Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Get A Free Cholesterol Check Today"

Sorry it's been awhile since I posted. Been a rough week :-) Anyhow, so I'm driving to a Wedding this weekend when I see the above banner ad outside a CVS store. The first thing I thought was "Cool, do I just need to tell them how much they can make the check out for?" The next thing that came to mind was that the only thing this advertisement does for CVS is to show the people who understand what cholesterol is all about, is that CVS has not a clue that total cholesterol means nothing.

First off, this is a check of your total cholesterol only. And what have we learned about total cholesterol? That's right, total cholesterol means nothing....nothing at all. Total cholesterol is simply the addition of the HDL + LDL + VLDL; these are all added up to arrive at the total cholesterol.

As I've mentioned in previous blogs and throughout my book, if one's HDL or protective cholesterol is elevated, this will usually drive up the total and one's total cholesterol can easily be above 200 with an HDL in the 50-60-or 70 range.. Thus, if you just have your total checked and not the profile I can offer you no useful information about what the number means.

For instance, one may have a total of 240-280, but without the HDL, I cannot tell you if this is bad or good.

"But wait a minute!" I hear some of you yell. If my total is below 200 then it is all good and I don't have to worry about my cholesterol at all. "Not so fast there," I'll respond. I have a good many patients whose total cholesterol's are below 200, but their HDLs are under 40, 30 or even under 20. These people are at high risk for heart disease due to the very low HDLs. These patients need to raise their HDLs to protect themselves against heart disease.

I also get a good number of people whose total cholesterol's are above 200, sometimes close to 300 who need to raise their cholesterol's. This almost always gets a 'are you crazy glare.' I used 'glare' not 'stare' as people can get downright nasty when I give the correct advice, but all their heads are filled up with is the years of brainwashing they've been subjected to, so they think I am a stark raving lunatic when I suggest this.

So the bottom line is that without the HDL and triglycerides, I can offer no useful advice about what one needs to change dietarily. Once again, total cholesterol means nothing...It is a waste of a number.

Thanks CVS for continuing to propagate one of the biggest cholesterol myths out there. Of course the drug companies all advertise that if one's cholesterol is above 200 you must be on meds. This is absolutely false and can place a person in danger. Oh wait, doesn't CVS dispense the prescription medications which lower cholesterol? Hmmm. Having said that, I don't really feel CVS is intending to do anything malicious, it is just continuing to propagate the incorrect beliefs that still persist strongly today, because CVS believes them to be true.

Remember, beliefs can be right or wrong...facts just are...

Dr Jim

PS: Thanks Keri-Ann for being my 5th follower! Who will be my 6th follower? Any takers :-)

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1 comment:

  1. Dr. Jim,

    What I expected you to say was what the real method of evaluation would be for cholesterol and trig. Isn't it 2:1 trig:HDL ?